Turkey: Brussels attacker deported from Turkey twice

Belgian flags seen at a street memorial service near the old stock exchange in Brussels following Tuesday's bomb attacks in Brussels, Belgium, March 23, 2016. (Reuters)

One of the attackers in the Brussels suicide bombings, Ibrahim el-Bakraoui, was deported twice from Turkey last year, in July and August, a Turkish government official said on Thursday.

A second senior Turkish official said Bakraoui’s initial deportation in July was based on police suspicion that he was a foreign militant fighter, but no crime was committed in Turkey, describing his expulsion as an “administrative deportation.”

On Wednesday, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said Bakraoui was deported last year from Turkey, and Belgium subsequently ignored a warning that the man was a militant.

Erdogan’s office identified Bakraoui as one of the two brothers named by Belgium as responsible for the attacks that killed at least 31 people in Brussels on Tuesday and were claimed by ISIS.

Belgian officials did not respond to requests for comment.

In previous cases, officials have said that without evidence of crime, such as having fought in Syria, they cannot jail people deported from Turkey.

Among such cases was Ibrahim Abdeslam, one of the suicide bombers in Paris in November, who was also sent back to Belgium from Turkey early last year.

Erdogan told a news conference that Bakraoui was detained in the southern Turkish province of Gaziantep near the Syrian border and was later deported to the Netherlands. Turkey also notified Dutch authorities, Erdogan said.

“One of the attackers in Brussels is an individual we detained in Gaziantep in June 2015 and deported. We reported the deportation to the Belgian Embassy in Ankara on July 14, 2015, but he was later set free,” Erdogan said.

“Belgium ignored our warning that this person is a foreign fighter.”

Erdogan’s office confirmed that Bakraoui was deported to the Netherlands. It said he was later released by Belgian authorities as “no links with terrorism” were found. It was not clear when Bakraoui was handed over to Belgian authorities.

Erdogan initially said Bakraoui was deported in June. His office later said he was detained in June and deported in July.

The attacks in Brussels came just days after a suspected ISIS suicide bomber blew himself up in Istanbul’s most popular shopping district, killing three Israelis and an Iranian and wounding dozens.

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Last Update: 06:50 KSA 09:50 - GMT 06:50
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